August 3, 2013

Tales from Sungei Merah : Cheng Gie for Grandfather

Cheng Gie or Burong Engkeruak are very tasty birds. They are known as White Breasted Water Hen which are found all over South East Asia.

During the Japanese Occupation, my Grandmother Siew, would set up traps to catch them. Each time she would catch three or four. Because she was a very meticulous worker, she would really pluck the feathers very well and my grandfather would savour the steamed Cheng Gie.

Photo of Cheng Gie, from Sarikeians. Thanks.

In another family story, my sixth uncle, Uncle Yu King found it quite hard to catch burong engkeruak in the muddy river banks of the Rajang River at the Hua Hong Ice Factory. The plank walk  from the office and coolie quarters to the toilets was quite high up when the tide was low. He remembered how interested he was in catching the Cheng Gie for dinner. As a young boy he was enthusiastic about helping out with the family food supply. He caught one one day. Thinking that the bird had fainted, he placed the bird on the plank walk. By the time he climbed up to the plank walk, the bird had flown off!! Why didn't he think of tying the bird to his waist? He was too young to have the foresight, his sisters laughed!! It was not easy to catch birds for dinner, especially in the mud.

Today young boys and girls would no longer care to plunge themselves into a muddy walk to catch birds for dinner.

A civil servant I met recently has lots of tales to tell about Burong Engkeruak nowadays. He traps them fairly easily using his own methods. Each weekend he could get about 10 which he can sell in the market. If he has more, he will have some for himself. BBQ engkeruak is very very tasty he said.

Each time I see a Cheng Gie in my garden I would think of the hardships of my uncles and aunties during the Japanese Occupation. And remember the stories my Grandmother Siew told me about her own diligence in catching the small birds, just to give Grandfather some extra nourishment.

I think today, not many wives would go out in the jungle or mud flats to trap birds for their husbands.

Personally I have not ever eaten a roasted Cheng Gie in my life. Would you like to try one?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is called white-breasted waterhen

Ensurai said...

Thank you for the scientific name. We grew up with the Foochow name of cheng gie...

Anonymous said...

Quote Today young boys and girls would no longer care to plunge themselves into a muddy walk to catch birds for dinner.UNQuote

Those days, young boys & girls would like to ask you, would you still like them to have lives of the yesteryears? They are now so engrossed with internet like you now, right? hahaha..

Quote I think today, not many wives would go out in the jungle or mud flats to trap birds for their husbands.UNQuote

If WIVES of those days, still do as yesteryears' wivies, then what is EDUCATion for ??? However, really love to read your wonderful postings..
continue on.. CHeers..



Ensurai said...

Thanks for the response. Answers -(a) some children would still like to experience nature, go for forest living etc...(b) Even with education, degrees,etc, if chances are given I am sure some wives would still trap birds for the joy of providing some exotic food for their family. I know of a American woman who used to trap birds ..and she told me the birds taste very good. She and her husband are the most loving couple I know of.I was thinking of her when I asked the question..And I, for that matter, would like to go trapping birds with my children if we have the opportunity. By the way, another lady I was once told, is a good hunter. She goes hunting and fishing with her husband in the ulu. She is also very highly educated.